Beware of Trees Falling on Your Home and Your Insurance Premium


Beware of Trees Falling on Your Home and Your Home Insurance Premium 

You’ve probably heard the old adage

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

But what if a tree falls on your house - are you covered? What about if it falls in your yard or falls on your fence? The answer is not straightforward.

Many Variables Come Into Play

This is one of those homeowners insurance answers where whether or not you’re covered does depend on the precise situation. And with 5% of homeowners filing at least one claim every year, you need to know what to do if you have to deal with a fallen tree. There are a lot of scenarios. So, let’s look at a few.

What if…

Your tree falls on your home or any other structure during a storm?
The national average for repairs after a storm is $7,296. The low end for damages may only be a few hundred while the high end can go to the tens of thousands. Wind damage is also the most frequent homeowners claim at roughly 25 percent of all claims

Storms happen. And with any storm, debris removal comes with the cost of damages. If your tree falls on any roofed structure and causes damage to your property, then you’ll be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Debris removal can be included on your policy, but sometimes carriers put a limit on debris removal (of $500, $1,000, or $2,000 per occurrence). Check your policy details for your exact coverage limit. 

Your tree falls in your driveway?
Because you cannot use your driveway and because the tree may have damaged the driveway, homeowners insurance would cover its removal (in most states). However, check your deductible. Do you want to file a $1,200 claim with a $1,000 deductible - probably not. 

A tree falls on your car?
Ouch. Your homeowners insurance would not cover it. Your auto insurance policy would under comprehensive or other-than-collision coverage. 

Your tree fell down because of rot?
Homeowners insurance companies are a huge fan of responsible homeowners. Any time damage happens that could have been prevented, it gets classified as negligence. And when that happens, they most likely won’t cover damages. Something to keep in mind if you see a tree start to look like it could be a problem exercise some preventative maintenance to restore the tree or remove the tree before damage occurs. Supporting the tree with cables is risky, because if the cables break in a storm, the insurance company will say you were negligent in not removing the tree (given you put the cables up, you knew it had issues).

sailor moon fashion GIF

Your tree decides to fall into the street?
This is a tricky one. Either you or the city would be responsible for cleaning it up, depending on local laws in your county. 

Your tree falls into your yard? 
While annoying, unfortunately, cleaning it up is on you. Homeowners insurance generally doesn’t cover trees falling over in your yard. They have to damage a structure for coverage to kick in. Some policies do, however, offer coverage for debris removal assistance.  

Your tree fell because of…other causes?
If there was a riot, car accident, or fire that caused the tree to fall, then it would be classified under that peril and covered. On the other hand, if a tree fell over because of ground movement and damaged your house, it could be excluded if ground movement is an exclusion on your policy. (most common) 

Your pesky neighbor’s tree fell into your yard?
This is where it gets unfortunate: where the tree lands determines responsibility. So, if the tree falls in your yard and it was healthy, you’re responsible.

If your neighbor was negligent, then their insurance could be responsible. (eg if their tree was rotting months ago, it should have been taken down, but they refused to do so)

Your pesky neighbor’s tree hit your house?
You’re covered. Phew. Many awkward summer barbeques in the backyard trying to avoid eye contact avoided. In some cases, your insurance company may have your neighbor’s homeowner’s insurance pay for any damages/removal through subrogation. And if that happens, you could recover your deductible. 

How Much Coverage Will My Policy Provide?

Again, this varies from policy to policy. Generally speaking, the limit per tree is $500 for removal. Some policies limit the amount you can claim per event. For example, if your policy limits your claim total to $1,000 for tree removal, and it cost $500 to remove each tree, and 4 of them were knocked down, then you’d have to pay the extra $1,000 out of pocket. 

Will My Insurer Buy New Trees?

Trees and other shrubs add value to your home. In some cases, it can add between 5% - 10% more value. That's $15,000 - $30,000 on a $300,000 home. Wanting to replace them makes sense. Many policies have limits on trees and shrubs while some offer no coverage at all. Read your policy documents to see what coverage you have. 

Keep in mind that if you sell plants as a business, then you would need to consult your business insurance for filing claims and getting replacements, not your personal homeowners policy. 

Why Your Deductible Matters

Most common deductibles on a homeowners insurance policy are between $500 and $1,000. The average cost of tree removal can vary between $150 - $1,500 per tree. If it only costs $350 to remove the tree, then filing a claim would not be in your best interest.  Some home insurance policies have a $0 deductible specifically for the removal of fallen trees, so you may be in luck. Read your policy.

At your service,
Young Alfred